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The Blotter II: The House GOP

"Resign, Mr. Speaker," is the headline on the Washington Times editorial which reads, "Mr. Hastert has forfeited the confidence of the public and his party, and he cannot preside over the necessary coming investigation, an investigation that must examine his own inept performance."  The ed board nominates retiring Rep. Henry Hyde to replace him because his "Mr. Hyde would preside over the remaining three months of the 109th Congress in a manner best suited for a full and exhaustive investigation until a new speaker for the 110th Congress is elected in January." 

Richard Viguerie, "a founder of the conservative movement, called for the 'immediate resignation of any House GOP leaders who had knowledge of... Foley's improper contact with underage pages -- but who took no action.'  Mr. Hastert told reporters yesterday that he had been unaware of sexually explicit messages sent by Mr. Foley but had been told about previous, less sordid, messages in which the congressman asked a teen boy what he wanted for his birthday and whether he could provide a photograph of himself...  The explanation did not convince Mr. Viguerie." 

The Wall Street Journal editorial page gives no quarter to Foley and says the leadership handled the situation poorly, but also notes, "Some of those liberals now shouting the loudest for Mr. Hastert's head are the same voices who tell us that the larger society must be tolerant of private lifestyle choices, and certainly must never leap to conclusions about gay men and young boys." 

Hastert gave an interview to NBC yesterday.  Some highlights:
NBC: "Is the implication that your political enemies, Democrats, have leaked these (communications) out in order to affect the election?"
HASTERT: "It's a crazy season, it's a political year.  People are talking about all kinds of things that may happen.  I don't know. I have no idea and I would not conjecture that."
NBC: "The White House spokesman, Mr. Snow, termed these as 'nasty little e-mails'...  Your reaction?"
HASTERT: "I think they're more than nasty little e-mails.  I don't know if he read them or not, but they were very suggestive and should have been acted upon if we had known about it.  These were the ones in 2003..."
NBC: "Sir, were you aware that it's been reported that pages were routinely told to stay away from Mr. Foley, over the last four years?"
HASTERT: "No, I wasn't aware of that."
NBC: "A prominent conservative, Michael Reagan, the son of the former President, suggested today that you resign.  I wonder what your reaction to that is?"
HASTERT: "Well, I mean, what I've tried to do -- it's easy to call for -- put blame on somebody and try to solve problem.  The fact is I'm trying to solve the problem...  In my tenure here as Speaker, what we've done is try to protect the pages...  We're trying to prevent these types of things from happening.  You know, I guess this could have happened on almost anybody's watch but -- you know -- I've done the very best I can to protect these kids..."
NBC: "So, you're saying unequivocally: no cover-up on the part of Republicans and yourself?"
HASTERT: "There's nothing to cover up here.  We did -- we found out about this issue last November as I remember.  That was what the report was -- the report that we put out.  Our staff went forward and identified the Clerk of the House to this congressional office.  They were looking for direction.  That was what we did.  We got the head of the page board to do exactly what they wanted -- what the family wanted them to do -- we complied with their wishes.  We didn't ever -- my understanding is at request of family, nobody ever saw the text of that message.  All they saw was it was a Katrina message wishing -- wondering how this kid survived the hurricane.  And that's all we really knew about it and they didn't want a further contact and that's exactly what we did.
NBC: "But that wouldn't preclude you from beginning an ethics investigation, for example?"
HASTERT: "For what?  I mean, again, here's a member that wished a kid well, wondered how he'd survived the hurricane.  That's all we knew about this.  And, so far as the explicitly sexual language involved, we were told, 'No, there wasn't.'  And so what we had to go on was exactly what the editorial board of the St. Petersburg Times, I believe, had to go on and there was no there there.  What we know now: Yes."

Roll Call reports that "House Republican leaders held a tense Members-only conference call Monday evening to attempt to assuage lawmakers' anger about a controversy that some Republicans fear has put the majority increasingly in peril...  Sources on Monday's conference call said Members supported the leaders' position that there was no prior knowledge of any inappropriate contact between Foley and minors."